East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Jonathan Owen re-elected as Conservative group leader at AGM

The leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s ruling Conservative group has seen off a leadership challenge after winning re-election.

By Joe Gerrard (Local Democracy Reporting Service)
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 3:41 pm
Cllr Jonathan Owen was re-elected as leader of the Conservative group at its AGM.
Cllr Jonathan Owen was re-elected as leader of the Conservative group at its AGM.

Cllr Jonathan Owen was re-elected as leader of the Conservative group at its AGM on Wednesday (April 27), LDRS understands, with former cabinet member Cllr David Tucker running against him.

The yearly meeting of the group also saw Cllr Anne Handley elected as deputy leader after her predecessor Cllr John Holtby stood down from the post.

The Conservative leadership elections are separate to those deciding the political head of the Council.

Sign up to our daily The Scarborough News Today newsletter

But the group’s 46 out of 67 seats makes it unlikely that anyone other than Cllr Owen would be elected unless there are major Conservative splits before the Council AGM.

The vote comes one year after Cllr Owen and Cllr Holtby came to power after mounting a coup which ousted predecessors Cllr Richard Burton and Cllr Mike Stathers respectively.

Cllr Tucker and Cllr Handley are thought to have stood on a joint slate, with current Culture and Leisure Portfolio Holder Cllr Mike Medini also running to be deputy leader.

Cllr Owen is believed to have won by a comfortable margin and he called for unity within the group in this victory speech.

Cllr Tucker, of South East Holderness, also called for the group to get behind Cllr Owen after conceding defeat, LDRS understands.

The election of Goole North’s Cllr Handley as deputy leader marks her return to frontbench East Riding politics.

The councillor held the enterprise and digital brief under Cllr Burton’s tenure.

Ongoing devolution talks and fallout from a recent Local Government Association (LGA) report on the inner workings of the Council are thought to have dominated the vote.

It also comes after the opposition Liberal Democrats took South Hunsley in a by election earlier this month, a ward regarded as a Conservative stronghold.

LDRS understands divisions remain within the Conservative group over how best to move forward on a devolution deal for Hull and the East Riding.

Cllr Burton’s tenure saw the East Riding come close to striking a mayoral deal with Hull similar to that now in place in neighbouring West Yorkshire.

But the issue was reopened after Cllr Owen took office and Cllr Daren Hale succeeded Cllr Steve Brady as leader of Hull City Council last year.

The authorities have since moved towards a settlement based on the alternative County Deal model which is not presided over by a mayor.

A final deal is yet to be signed off.

The vote also took place in the wake of allegations of bullying and undemocractic practices at the Council made in a leaked draft LGA Peer Challenge report.

Cllr Owen’s cabinet has since approved an action plan to address issues raised in the final version of the report which removed explicit references to bullying.

It also stated senior councillors was getting to grips with its political priorities under Cllr Owen but called for a greater sense of vision and a stronger local leadership role.

Cllr Tucker previously served in Cllr Owen’s cabinet as planning portfolio holder before standing down earlier this year and being replaced by Cllr Claire Holmes.

He chaired the Planning Committee prior and was in post for high-profile decisions including the first on the West Newton oil and gas site, Veterans Village and Amazon’s Melton warehouse.

Cllr Handley has also been involved in work on Goole’s bid for a Town Deal which saw it get £25m in Government regeneration funding.

Cllr Medini, of Cottingham South, chaired the Council’s Climate Change Review Panel which recommended declaring an emergency over the issue and drawing up plans to curb local carbon emissions.